Community and Health Insights, City of Greater Dandenong
The Food Innovation Alliance was engaged to carry out in depth interviews in Greater Dandenong to gather a range of qualitative data and insights from food related programs, groups and organisations. The objective of this was to find out how programs, projects and groups were working currently, and discover how these could be integrated further with economic development in the city and scale their potential.
The stakeholder engagement outcomes formed an overall snapshot of the Dandenong food system with a focus on the aspects contributing to health and wellbeing. This was then utilised to develop the co-design outputs and multiple aspects of the Food Strategy recommendations. This process had a parallel objective – to develop a network of community practitioners and organisations who were engaged and active within the realms of food, health and community so that outcomes of the report already have local buy in. This is fundamentally important to making the strategy a locally owned reality in the coming years.
The Food Innovation Alliance spent over 5 days in Greater Dandenong meeting with diverse stakeholders from places such as Dandenong Neighbourhood House, Avocare, Dandenong Market, Learning Centres, Community Gradens, Monash Health, South East Food Hub, local manufacturers, retailers and Council workers in Health, Planning, Community Development and Economic Development.
The questions centred around finding out about how the current work being done in Council and Community run programs and related projects can be united with other food related projects and the wider food economy of Dandenong. It is clear that healthy food and healthy people play a fundamental role in the development of a city whose economy will thrive into the future.
Upon conclusion of the engagement process the project team distilled this information to draw out key understandings that could inform the codesign process and broader Food Strategy. These insights formed the foundation for the design concepts for programs, outputs, policy changes and cultural change within Council to incorporate the factor of health into wider economic and planning strategies.
The key overall insights gained from this process were:
- Health factors and consideration of health factors do not feature strongly in both the economic and planning units within Council, even though there are fundamental economic and planning connections between the two.
- There is limited value based on community health and food projects by state, federal and local council.
- Social Enterprise as a concept is growing, however a deeper understanding of health projects having an economic output needs to be further explored.
- Manufacturing sector is interested to partner with people in community and health sector, however there are not clear ways of enabling these relationships to form.
- The issue of food as an enabler of health in the city is not yet seen as a major competitive advantage of being a ‘leading food city’. There is a strong focus on manufacturing and food processing being leaders in food, however urban agriculturalists, local food distributors and healthy food programs are not yet seen as a ‘leaders’
- Business, community and council partnerships need to form to develop strong business case for many programs
- An overall ‘brand’ needs to be developed that incorporates healthy food programs and projects. This has potential to become a national and international success if implemented well.
- There is strong leadership in Council, community groups and related organisations to implement some highly successful programs which improve the brand of the city, however these leaders need to be embraced and empowered by the overall business structure of Council
- Planning laws currently restrict access to implement certain urban agriculture projects
- More funding of local food projects is needed, however these need to be framed as social enterprise projects which has a self sustaining model.
- Procure healthy local food within Council
- Brand the current food projects and programs in Health and incorporate their outcomes in economic development terms
- Develop a feasibility study for the Social Enterprise Hub at the Bendigo Bank site.
- Incubate several healthy food projects under the banner of Council, the Food Strategy and the Social Enterprise Feasibility
- Continue to support the South East Food Hub Project in partnership with Avocare
- Continue to build the relationship with the Dandenong Market, building on the success of other work i.e. ‘The Kitchen’
- Enable community kitchen program for the Dandenong Neighbourhood House
- Enable Avocare to implement best practice organic waste recycling facility in partnership with Cultivating community.
- Tie in the aims and objectives of local and healthy food strategy into state and national plans i.e. Food Alliance, National Food Plan and Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance.
- Develop a local Food Policy (similar to that of Bristol or even Melbourne) to enable the issue of food and health to be at the forefront of decision makers aims for the city.